Ambassador Sun Guoxiang addresses the members of the New York chapter of the UN Association at the Chinese consulate in New York City on September 4 (FILE)
Members of the New York chapter of the UN Association gathered at the Chinese consulate on September 4 to "experience China" with musical performances, the best Chinese buffet in the Big Apple, and a warm welcome from host Sun Guoxiang, Chinese Ambassador and Consul General, and his wife Madame Wang Min.
"I don't know how many of you have been to China, but even if you haven't had the chance yet, you must have some knowledge about China. After more than 30 years of reform and opening up, China has improved the lives of its 1.3 billion people, lifting over 600 million people out of poverty. The world's second largest economy, we still rank 18th in the world with a per capita GDP of $6,800 and we face a daunting task to narrow the gaps between the urban and the rural areas," Sun said.
Faced with many challenges and difficulties, the Chinese Government identified the 200-year goals to build the country into a "moderately prosperous" society, he added, by 2021. Secondly, China will develop into a modernized country that is strong and harmonious.
"In order to achieve these goals, we must take further steps to deepen reform – which is what we are doing now," Sun said. "We are ready to develop and maintain friendly cooperation with the rest of the world."
The United Nations is the envoy for peace and China has played an active role in UN endeavors over the past 40 years, Sun said. To date, China has dispatched 22,000 personnel to 23 UN peacekeeping missions, making it the largest peacekeeping contributor among the five permanent UN Security Counsel Members.
"China will remain committed to our cooperation with the UN," said the Consul General, "and making a greater contribution to the world."
Under the framework of global peace, China's relationship with the U.S. is one of its top priorities, he said. The bilateral relationship has become of the most dynamic and positive diplomatic relationships in the world. With deep trade and economic ties, the Sino-U.S. relationship is key to future development.
"There is a flight between China and the United States every 24 minutes, and about 10,000 people are traveling across the Pacific every day," Sun said.
At the historic Sunnylands Summit last year, leaders of the U.S. and China pledged mutual respect and cooperation in the new era of bilateral relations.
"Despite our differences and our disagreements, we are bound together by ever stronger ties and shared interests," he said. "Today, at the consulate, we start a journey of mutual understanding and friendship. Let's work together for the efforts of the United Nations and growth of U.S.-China relations."
UNA-NY members were able to ask Ambassador Sun questions following his speech, and raised the issues of the challenges of an aging population, the global war on terrorism, the promotion of tourism, and China's aid to Africa.
"In China we have a saying, that we have become old before we have become rich," Sun said in answer to a question on the challenges of the growing elderly population around the globe. "So, we are studying this issue and trying to draw on the lessons learned by other countries. This is a global issue and we are ready to cooperate with the rest of the world to provide better service for the elderly population. We all have the same goal – to provide a happy life for the elderly."
On terrorism, Ambassador Sun said China shared in the global outrage and sorrow at the beheading of U.S. journalist James Foley at the hands of ISIS fighters.
"ISIS is an extremist terrorist group, we have to fight together," Sun said. "No matter what their name is or where they are, terrorism is a common enemy of mankind. The Chinese Government's position is that we are firmly against terrorism no matter where they are based. Secondly, terrorism is a global issue so we have to strengthen our global efforts to fight it. Thirdly, there are social causes for terrorism to grow, so we have to find the real reasons behind it. Lastly, we need to launch an international network to fight against terrorism."
Following the Q&A, guests dined on a buffet of Chinese food provided by the consulate chefs, and heard musical entertainment provided by FJ Music Fusion, featuring Feifei Yang and Jiaju Shen on the erhu and pipa.
The author is a columnist for Beijing Review, living in New York City